There is metal in our dairy products — does it matter?

Sep 2, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Image: Fuse/Getty Images

Imagine you're walking down the dairy aisle at your grocery store. Which gallon of milk do you pick up — one that's bright and clean or one that appears dull and dingy?

Would you change your answer if you learned that the bright gallon of milk is lustrous because it's full of silver? That's right. Your dairy is full of metal, and it ought to concern you.

Dr. Caroline Cederquist, co-founder and medical director of BistroMD, says that many popular dairy products — like skim milk, mozzarella cheese and ice cream — are chock full of more than just nutrition. Flip to the ingredient label, and you'll likely see a chemical called E171, which is another name for titanium dioxide (TiO2). This chemical is a type of metal infused with silver, and it is responsible for the bright white appearance of many of our favorite dairy products and processed foods.

"You can find this metallic element in sunscreen, toothpaste, paint, chewing gum and icing," explained Cederquist. "It's nearly impossible to avoid exposure over time." And what's worse? The Food and Drug Administration isn't all that interested in limiting our exposure, because the agency claims that TiO2 is a safe food additive up to one percent of the food's weight.

Guys, I feel like this is a no-brainer. We shouldn't be eating metal, regardless of the FDA's casual stance on the issue. Cederquist agrees, "Information on the harmfulness of TiO2 is limited, but it's safer to avoid as many metals as possible. Exposure to metal can lead to problems with immune function in the body."

Concerned? While it's challenging to completely ban TiO2 from our food supply, you can protect yourself from exposure by choosing healthy alternatives to sparkly milk. Cederquist says that consumers should self-select away from any processed product that looks a little too white and bright. For instance, pick up an olive oil based salad dressing rather than a bottle of processed ranch, because E171 is likely on the ingredient list of that perfectly white dressing. "You can also research companies to discover if they use TiO2, and then use your best judgment," Cederquist concludes. "And if you want to put your mind at ease, find a naturopathic doctor to run metal level testing, and perform a toxic metal cleanse if you feel your levels are too high."

But for the love of all that is holy, maybe stick to wearing silver instead of eating it.

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